Four Flanker type fighters from Indonesia are participating for the first time in the annual Pitch Black exercise in Australia opening today. Arriving at Darwin, Australia the Indonesian fighters two Su-30 and two Su-27 were escorted by to Australian No. 77 Squadron F/A-18 Hornet Aircraft.
Exercise Pitch Black is a major multi-national biennial exercise hosted by the Royal Australian Air Force, involving Offensive Counter Air and Offensive Air Support missions being flown at training ranges across the Northern Territory. Exercise Pitch Black 12 beginning today (27 July) will continue through 17 August 2012, and involve 2,200 personnel and up to 94 aircraft from Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, New Zealand and the United States. Operations will be commanded from Darwin and Tyndal AFB in the US.
The Exercise provides the first opportunity to test the new Australian hardware, including Super Hornet, Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft (AEW&C), and KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport. Singapore will also deploy its newest fighters and AEW&C – the F-15SG and Gulfstream G550 Conformal Airborne Early Warning aircraft.
Participants at Exercise Pitch Black 12 will utilise massive military training areas near Bradshaw and Delamere to practice offensive counter air and offensive air support operations with large formations of foreign aircraft.
Australia and Indonesia defense and security cooperation may be on the rebound following a recent meeting between Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Canberra’s military ties with Jakarta have been strained over many years. Relations hit their lowest point in 1999, when Australian troops were sent to East Timor to quell violence by pro-Indonesian military militia groups. But in recent years the military-to-military relationship warmed as Australia provided expertise to Indonesia’s security forces to counter terrorist groups.
The decision to send the Sukhois to Australia is believed to have been approved by Dr Yudhoyono. Indonesia’s air force has been on a buying spree recently. It already operates 10 Sukhoi-27s and four Sukhoi-30 MK2 jets, and recently announced a new order for six Sukhoi-30 MK2 fighters.